Six months with the Sensation XE
I have had the Sensation XE for about six months now so I thought it was time for a write up about my experience with the device. I have already posted a review of the device over on my personal blog so this will be a rewrite of that review with a lot of updates and such.
First off, sorry Nokia for not getting one of your phones. I was so close of either getting the N9 or the Lumia 800 but both devices fell just short of the finish line. Main reason for the N9 not becoming my new device was that I worried about how long Nokia would keep updating it and also for how long people/companies would produce applications for the MeeGo OS. Why the Lumia 800 didn’t become my new device was mostly because of battery life and the camera issues. Also the fixed storage space. This was never an issue with the N9 since I comes in a 64GB version which is more space than I would ever need. Other than that I really loved both phones but I thought it was time for me to give Android a try (nagging co-workers etc 😉 ). I come from an iPhone 4S so the build standard bar was set pretty high. Samsung was out of the question due to the plastic nature of the SII and the Galaxy Nexus seemed to be just as much a plastic phone to.
CPU Processing Speed
1.5 GHz, dual core
Total storage: 4 GB
Available storage: up to 1 GB
RAM: 768 MB
3.5 mm stereo audio jack
micro-USB 2.0 (5-pin) port with mobile high-definition video link (MHL) for USB or HDMI connection (Special cable required for HDMI connection.)
Ambient light sensor
Gallery, Music, and FM Radio
DLNA for wirelessly streaming media from the phone to your TV or computer
Audio supported formats:
Playback: .aac, .amr, .ogg, .m4a, .mid, .mp3, .wav, .wma (Windows Media Audio 9)
Video supported formats:
Playback: .3gp, .3g2, .mp4, .wmv (Windows Media Video 9), .avi (MP4 ASP and MP3), .xvid (MP4 ASP and MP3)
Power and Battery
Battery type: Rechargeable Lithium-ion battery
Capacity: 1730 mAh
WCDMA: Up to 445 minutes
GSM: Up to 550 minutes
WCDMA: Up to 540 hours
GSM: Up to 310 hours
HSPA/WCDMA: Europe/Asia: 900/AWS/2100 MHz
Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
Android™ with HTC Sense™
8 megapixel color camera: Auto focus and dual LED flash
Front camera: VGA fixed focus color camera
HD video recording: 1080p HD video recording
3G: Up to 14.4 Mbps download speed Up to 5.76 Mbps upload speed
GPRS: Up to 80 kbps downloading
EDGE:Up to 236.8 kbps downloading
Wi-Fi®: IEEE 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth®: Bluetooth® 3.0
A2DP for wireless stereo headsets
FTP and OPP (object push) for file transfer
PBAP for phonebook access from the car kit
Other supported profiles: AVRCP, GAP, GOEP, HFP, HID, HSP, MAP, SPP, SDAP
Facebook® and Twitter™ for HTC Sense
Share photos/videos on Facebook®, Flickr®, Twitter™, or YouTube™
Internal GPS antenna
With Locations, explore maps with zero wait, zero dead spots, and zero data roaming fees
USB and Wi-Fi® tethering
This is a really solid phone! It feels great in the hand. The back is made of metal and a dull rubbery plastic that gives the phone a great grip and makes it feel secure in the hand. On the left side is the volume up and down rocker and the microUSB port. This is a good placement of the port when you have the phone connected next to your laptop not making it twist around. I am using an old really short cable from an E71 which makes this placement ideal. On the top there is the 3.5mm port and the power button. The right side is flush and the bottom holds the microphone and the button to open the back. The front has four capacitive android buttons, a front facing camera proximity sensor, and a led that shows battery status when charging and also acts a notification lights for new messages. On the back is the 8 Mpix camera with dual LED flash and a speaker and also the HTC and Beats logo. The screen is really good at showing colours and it works great even in bright surroundings.
The only outside difference of the Sensation and the Sensation XE is that the speaker grill and capacitive buttons are a really cool orange/red colour matching the headphones red cable.
The Sensation XE came with Android GB 2.3. This was updated a few times until ICS was released this year in February. I will confess that I only ran the phone with the original ROM for about three weeks. After that I found out how to root an Android phone and off I was into the jungle of cooked Android ROM:s. I have always loved how AOSP Android looked so the first ROM:s I used were CM7 but they never managed to get the camera just right for the Sensation XE. Then, finally ICS came and people started to cook AOSP ROMS and the OpenSensation project was started. The front man for this is a developer called Vorbeth and it is his ROM that I am currently using (release 12-05-12).
I have also tried the AOKP ROM but for stability I stick to vorbeth's ROM since it is solely developet for the Sensation. Also Google's built in backup function works with this ROM. This means that when I flash a new version at start-up, after entering my Google account, the phone retrieves my settings and all the app s that I had installed before I wiped the phone. Very handy if you like me flash your phone once a week
The Sensation XE comes with a 1730mAh battery. Running the original firmware the battery lasted about one day of normal use, a little bit of surfing, push mail sync, phone calls, and texting. With my current setup I get almost two days of normal use. Both drain a lot when using the camera though. Also WiFi drains a lot so forgetting to turn this off or setting it to only on when screen is on is crucial for preserving battery.
The calendar is really good, both the Sense version and goggles own AOSP. It gives you a good overview and besides the built in calendar widget there are plenty of good widgets that you could use like the “simple calendar” widget which I personally prefer.
The alarm clock works really well. In Sense it is the rolodex style that people coming from iOS will recognize. The AOSP version is also good but there are too many clicks in my opinion to get to the alarm settings. Included alarm signals in Sense are really good so the need for making your own or downloading extras don’t really exist. If you do want to add your own just create a folder on your memory card called “Alarms” and put them here. The same goes for ringtones. Just make a folder called, yeah you probably guessed it, “Ringtones” and put your own ones here. One thing that really bugs me with the calendar is that it can’t handle invitations sent from Outlook. There are apps for this but non work that well. Seriously Google, sort this out.
I was really pleased with the email client that came with Sense. I love the unified inbox, something that I have come to expect on a smartphone these days. There are threaded conversations and the possibility to move messages to folders, both real and in Gmail case, virtual. The sync setting was really easy to set up and the options where plentiful. I like the ability to choose how much to sync, from just a few days to everything there is in my inbox. In the AOSP version I am using I have the latest Gmail client installed and syncing two Gmail accounts. This also works very well BUT there is no unified inbox so I have to switch between the two accounts using a drop down list. Not a major setback but still annoying.
The web experience on the Sensation XE is awesome. This pretty much sums it up. It’s like using a netbook to surf the web. All webpages I have come across work in the browser: I have tried other browsers than the built in but Firefox for example is really slow. The built in browser renders really quickly and there is none of that annoying “white page” stuff that I have seen in other browsers like the one on the N9. With flash player 11 installed all videos work right away displaying smooth imbedded video. I also started to use Chrome as a browser on my computer and I love the sync function between the two. It is just so much better than the tedious setup process that you have with Firefox. This is of course thanks to Google account integration and on the down side this means you tie yourself even closer to one company.
Using Sense there is integration with twitter using “Friend stream”. In this widget you get Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr. The same integration can be found in your People app (contacts) where you can see the contacts latest status update if you have matched it to a social account. You can also reply inside the contact app but I can’t really see the point in doing so cause it isn’t that a great UI to begin with. I think I rather stick to Tweetdeck at this point. We will see how this feature have evolved when HTC comes with Sense 4.0.
The default HTC music player is OK. I like Mort player better since it just shows folders whilst the default player sort by using tags or MusiXmatch. The sound in the Sensation XE is amazing. The bas is killer good. The supplied in-ear headphones are the best I have ever used and they sure deliver everything they are said to. Oh you only get Beats Audio if you use the default player. In Sense 4.0 this is supposed to be system wide.
HTC has finally understood that navigation is a part of a smartphone, something that Nokia have had for years with Nokia Maps/Drive. This app is called Locations and it does the job (no you can’t compare it to Nokia Maps but in time maybe it will get better). Other than that you get Google maps and navigation but that means that you have data charge when using and not everyone has free unlimited data :/
I had some high hopes on this camera. I watched reviews, I read reviews and I looked at comparison shots before choosing the Sensation XE. And sure, it gets the job done but I am in no way satisfied with the quality, something that will make me opt for the Sony Experia S as soon as it is release if I manage to sell my XE. It can’t handle close-ups at all having the hardest time to focus on anything closer than 30 cm away unless it consist of a flat surface. I have added some sample pics taken in different lighting conditions as examples. I must say to the devices defence that when using the OpenSensation ROM and AOSP camera it works much better and takes much nicer photos then the HTC ROM camera app.
One major issue with the camera is that the colours are most times represented really badly. They looked washed out. Also indoors photos tend to be really noisy and motion blur is an everyday thing. I would really love to test a HTC One X to see if the camera is so much better as they claim.
Sample pictures below.
Not much to write about here. Included is Teeter, a marble maze game. There are tons of games for Android. I tested a few and the graphics are incredibly smooth which could only be expected. Especially racing games work really nice and the playing is just as good as on a console.
Like with games not much to say. HTC packs their own apps onto the phone like Locations (navigation app), Watch (video rental), HTC Hub (HTC content), Peep (HTC Twitter client). You also get Polaris Office (office app), SoundHound (a music lookup app) and Dice (a virtual dice) + Facebook app preinstalled. Like any other Android device you can download tons of apps from the market. The only limit is how large a memory card you have (mine is a 32GB).
I (still) love the Sensation XE. I almost never touch the Macbook at home anymore doing all my internet business on my phone instead. Sure I have had some issues with the phone but they are 99% my own fault for not being able to keep from flashing new ROM:s. If you are looking for a stable phone with great hardware far from the plastic Samsung phones, a great social integration, and a UI that is part of even the smallest settings menu then this is the deal for you. If you like to run your device AOSP then this can also be achieved with the Sensation XE and a little help from XDA-Developers. I have never experienced problems with memory or had performance issues. I ran a Quadrant check today and with the ROM I have on now this was the result (right) compared to original released ROM GB2.3 (left).
You can clearly see that running the OpenSensation ROM really makes a difference. Unfortunantly I haven't been abple to run one with the latest official ROM and not found one on the internet either that isn't from a rooted and over-clocked device.
If you on the other hand are looking for a great camera phone then I would look around a bit more. There are many new Android devices out there that boost better cameras then the Sensation XE like the HTC One X and Sony Xperia S.